Team needs to take its chances

Former Highlanders winger Patrick Osborne training with the side yesterday. Photo: Peter McIntosh
Former Highlanders winger Patrick Osborne training with the side yesterday. Photo: Peter McIntosh
Breaking the line is marvellous - but five points would be better.

Highlanders assistant coach Glenn Delaney wants his side to convert more of its opportunities.

One of the surprising statistics to emerge from the 43-17 loss to the Crusaders was that the Highlanders got into clear space often enough to build some real scoreboard pressure.

That scoreboard pressure came from the home side instead. The defending champion turned around a 10-7 halftime deficit to post a comfortable win.

It has left the Highlanders' title prospects teetering. The team has not registered a win since week two of the competition.

Despite that disappointing run, Delaney said the side was still upbeat as it prepared for a crucial fixture against the Blues in Dunedin on Saturday.

''The camp is fine,'' he responded when asked about the winless streak.

''When you boil everything down into context, we've not been far off at all ... barring the weekend obviously but up until that point they've been one-score games.

''You don't change everything you're doing because 99% of what you are doing is working well.

''We've got to make sure we turn that little last percent. That's either an offload going to hand or a tackle being made or a turnover ball being won.

''Those are the margins we are playing in and frankly that is what this competition is about, particularly against the New Zealand teams.

''We just need to turn one of those moments positively for us and that will help move us towards where we want to be.''

Delaney said the Highlanders broke the Crusaders' defensive line 10 times but netted just the two tries.

''It was quite interesting to come out with that amount of opportunity yet come out on the wrong side of the scoreboard.

''For us it is about making those breaks, keep doing the good lead-up work that we are doing and convert - being ruthless about converting.''

The Highlanders appear to have drafted in more finishing power to increase their potency out wide.

Former Highlanders winger Patrick Osborne is back training with the side. The 31-year-old played more than 50 games for the franchise from 2014 to 2017.

He formed a lethal combination with Waisake Naholo in the championship-winning 2015 team.

The Highlanders are short of wingers, so his return is timely. Naholo is sidelined with a knee complaint and fellow Fijian Tevita Nabura succumbed to a knee injury in early February.

All Black loose forward Luke Whitelock missed the match against the Crusaders. He picked up a calf strain a week earlier but appears poised to make his return.

''We'll get selection sorted at the back end of the week but so far he is training OK.

''Obviously, he has been away on foundation day with the All Blacks. It is his first training day back so we'll see how he ends up at the end of the day.''

Meanwhile, fellow All Black loose forward Liam Squire is also making progress. The 28-year-old tore a ligament in his knee in mid March as he was easing his way back following a chronic hip issue. He was expected to be out for 8eight to 10 weeks.

''The thing with the injury that he had is really when he starts putting load through it. But, look, he is moving much better than he has been. The plans are on target but with a knee you just see how it develops.

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